Legacy of the Kauaʻi ʻōʻō

Extinction is a fate that is claiming an increasing number of species. Extinction is declared when there is “no reasonable doubt that the last individual member has died.” The Kauaʻi ʻōʻō, a bird native to the Hawaiian islands, received this ruling in 1989. This bird was the last surviving member of the Moho genus and given an onomatopoeic name for the way its call sounds. Suspected reasons for this decline is habitat loss, introduction of Polyneasain rats and domestic pigs, as well as mosquito borne illnesses.

The Kauaʻi ʻōʻō made its nests within crevices of old trees, and the final blow came after they had lost much of their old trees. New trees had fewer places to build nests and many could not survive after tropical storms ravaged their islands. The ruling was made after the female of the last breeding pair vanished and extensive searching returned no results for the male after a few years. The male was last heard singing in 1987. (Listen to the recording Here) He was singing a mating call to a female who would never come. 

While the recording is chilling, it is the preservation of the last moment of a species that has captured the attention of the internet. Many museums keep the recording on display for guests because of its profound quality. The Kauaʻi ʻōʻō has become a landmark in many internet circles; from bird enthusiasts reveling in its preservation to artists making digital art, and even so far as memes. A small bird from Hawaii has managed to grasp the heart of millions who keep the memory of it fresh, some giving the Kauaʻi ʻōʻō’s the title of “ebird”. In some ways, it is like the Kauaʻi ʻōʻō has been given a new life. 

The story of the Kauaʻi ʻōʻō is indicative of the best parts of the internet. It has preserved the calls of an extinct species and brought the species into the lives of millions. The internet can do many things, like evolving an extinct species. The legacy of the Kauaʻi ʻōʻō has changed, and is no replacement for the natural creature, but it is still cool to see what can be done through the internet. 


Editor Emeritus at The City Voice | MIPA Honorable Mention Award Winner

I am a Senior at City and I normally write the weekly book reviews! If I'm not reading, you can usually find me at the barn riding and taking care of the horses.

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